running

On September 5, 2010 I ran my first 5K. It was a momentous occasion. Never in a million years did I ever think I could run a race of any distance. I felt very proud and even with all of the exercise time I had put in over the 3.5 years since I had started to lose weight, I considered it by far my most impressive physical achievement. Over the next several months I would run a handful of 5Ks, and slowly but surely running became something that I actually looked forward to doing.

At the height of my running glee I signed up for the famous (infamous?) Bay to Breakers 12K, a race that I had always wanted to take part in. I didn’t exactly train very hard for the race, but I did knock out my very first (unofficial) 10Ks and I was stoked. During the weeks leading up to B2B, I saw all of my Bay Area running acquaintances buzzing about the Nike Women’s Marathon lottery. Despite having never run more than 6 miles, I decided to sign up for the lottery. I figured I probably wouldn’t get picked, and if I did, it was 6 months away, which would give me tons of time to train. Also during this time period, I found out about the inaugural Tinkerbell Half Marathon in January 2012. I thought that if I didn’t make it into Nike, Tinkerbell would be a good goal to have for the future. If I did make it into Nike, well, I’d be at a training level that I could maintain until January.

I successfully ran Bay to Breakers, and though I didn’t achieve my desired time, I had a blast. I also found out that I had been selected in the Nike lottery, so I had two half marathons on the horizon. While some might get antsy and nervous about making TWO commitments to run a distance I had never even come close to, I felt jazzed. I was on a running buzz from my 12K, and I knew that with 4 months of training, I’d be able to nail Nike Women’s Half come October. I decided to give myself a couple of weeks off from running to regroup, then start up training for the new distance with fresh legs.

Bling, baby.

My first run post B2B went amazingly well. I felt strong, happy and alive as I tackled my usual route near Golden Gate Park. At some point during the run, I felt a slight twinge in my right hip. It went away shortly after the run, so I didn’t give it a second thought. My next training run, however, didn’t go so hot. About a mile in to the run, that hip pain came back…but about 5 times worse than I had felt it during my previous run. For some reason I tried to power through the pain. Instead of listening to my body, I plowed on for another mile and a half before It was too much. I headed home to ice.

The hip pain didn’t go away after the run this time. I limped around for an entire week, feeling the pain every time I walked or moved. It wasn’t unbearable, but I wasn’t a fan. Once the pain finally stopped, I tried to run again. A slow, very short run. No dice. The pain was not to be ignored and thus began my two month running hiatus.

I probably should have gone to the doctor, but every time I go to my doctor they try to convince me that whatever I’m feeling is all in my head. This really shouldn’t have been a deterrent for me, but being someone who tends to like to avoid problems, it was. I decided I was just going to take several weeks off and see if I healed on my own. I felt very bummed out to lose the form of cardio that I had come to rely on. I mean, how easy is it to throw on your sneakers and run for 30 minutes? No commute to the gym. No waiting for machines. It’s quick. And now for me, completely not an option.

To make matters worse, instead of doing other cardio or strength training while my hip mellowed out, I instead decided to be emo and sit around doing nothing, while letting my TV set and chocolate stash keep me company.

I may or may not have achieved mayorship of Powell’s Sweet Shoppe in Berkeley on FourSquare during this time. Cough.

I also fell off the face of the blogosphere due to feeling incredibly sorry for myself.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, when the going gets tough, I crawl into a hole and want to die.

Can you say, winner?

Sometime in August I realized that the pain had subsided quite a bit, so I went out and attempted a run. It was both awesome and miserable at the same time. On one hand, I was experiencing very little soreness and had no lasting effects after getting back out on the road. Yay! On the other hand, after nearly two months of couch potato-ism, I had lost all of my fitness and was winded easily. Plus, my casual pace had become painfully slow, even by my standards. Sucko.

I continued to build up again from scratch and as September hit, I finally was starting to get back up to 5K status. Coincidentally, at this same time, Maya was planning her annual visit home and she asked if there were any fitness related things we could do together while she was in town. I threw out that Race for the Cure would be happening the first Sunday after she and Eric arrived. I asked if she would be interested in running it. There aren’t as many chipped race opportunities in Tokyo, so like last year, she was into the idea of us getting in a 5K while she was in the states.

I was into it as well. I did the race last year, during which I achieved my current 5K PR. It seemed like a good way to get back into racing, which was an absolute must, given how fast October was sneaking up on me. I also figured it would probably get me to start upping my mileage. I’d get back into the running groove.

Either that, or I’d panic, sleep through almost all of my planned runs, stock up on junk food like it was going out of style and kinda pray that Maya had been completely kidding when she expressed interest in running a race and really  she just wanted to meet up so we could go out to breakfast and eat monstrous stacks of  all you can eat pancakes….

Next up: Race for the Cure 2011 Recap

I’m fairly remiss in recapping last week’s 5K. To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about my performance, so I’ve been avoiding it.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do a horrible job, or anything, but as I am sure you all know, when you fall short of what you hope to achieve, it is mentally annoying.

Prior to May 8th, I had been doing a decent job of getting in a couple of strength training sessions a week as well as a couple of runs. Despite only having had my routine in place for a few weeks, I already felt stronger and was quickly becoming a believer in how much strength training improves your running skills. With just a little extra attention to my muscles, I was finding running to be a little easier…and even more enjoyable.

The DSE Mother’s Day Marina Green 5K was the perfect chance to PR. I had run the course during my first race last September. It was all flat and I really felt confident that I could do well. I should have known things were going to be a little off for me that morning just based on the fact that I couldn’t even find the start line right away. I had assumed that the “Mother’s Day Marina Green 5K” would have the same start as the “Marina Green 5K” that I had run with DSE in September. When I got there, however, I realized very quickly that I was mistaken. I whipped out the old iPhone and lo and behold….the start line was over where the St. Patrick’s Day 5K had been. Like nearly a mile away.

Good job, Alexa, good job.

Not to worry…I got there in plenty of time to register and listen to all of the pre-race announcements.

Note my marathoner co-worker in the blue/yellow tank and black beanie. He is really fast. Just thought you should know.

After all of the usual pre-race talk, we headed over to the start line. Despite my location mix up, I was still feeling pretty good. I was wearing my new Nike hoodie and had my discounted runner’s water bottle. I was totally ready to kick some 5K ass.

The first mile went very well. I completed it in 10:07, which for me is pretty fast. My pace is usually closer to 11 minutes, so I was definitely on the path to PRdom. Unfortunately, as mile 2 got going, I started to get a bad side stitch. My standard pre-race breakfast of peanut butter and banana toast was fighting back. I took a little walk break and chugged some water (with Strawberry Lemonade Nuun). That of course, didn’t help matters…chugging fluids while running is kind of a bad idea. At the time, however, I was more focussed on the stitch. It pretty much took the second mile to sort out the pain and water sloshy-ness. For the third mile, I rebounded, but I had lost a lot of time. To top it off, I was now running my last mile directly into the wind. I was running strong, but really, my pace is no match for a good strong gust off of the Golden Gate.

I crossed the finish line with the time of 33:54. I was disappointed. Although it wasn’t my slowest 5K time or anything, it was slower than the first time I had run Marina Green (same course, btw…just different start/finish location).

After the race I decided to walk home, which is a nearly 4 mile walk. Since I work down at the waterfront, I am pretty used to it though. I just sort of went on auto pilot and let my feet carry me on home.

Well, until I hit the Civic Center area, that is.

That is when I get hit with a crazy thought.

The thought to run Hayes Street Hill.

“Hayes Street Hell” is pretty much the most difficult part of the Bay To Breakers route, and coincidentally, is on my way home. I knew that in a week I was going to be expected to run up Hayes when I took part in my very first Bay to Breakers race. While I had walked up the hill many times, I had never run it and for some reason, I decided that trying it after running a 5K and walking nearly 4 miles was a good idea.

So I did.

I thought I was going to die when I finally got to the top, but I did in fact get there.

It would probably be rather crude to admit that the entire time I ran it I was chanting, “Make this hill your b*tch, Alexa, make it your B*tch!” in my head.

So I won’t admit that.

*cough*

As I hobbled back to my apartment, I just reminded myself that on May 15th when I met that hill again, I at least would have the knowledge that I could do it.

And knowing, is half the battle.

Coming Up: Bay to Breakers Expo and the 100th Running of the Bay to Breakers Recap.

Do you beat yourself up over missing out on time goals, or are you more zen about the whole racing experience?

Yesterday I went on a run. To be honest, I hadn’t exactly wanted to go, but I was trying to stick to schedule again, and my schedule said I had to.

It was actually a pretty smart thing to do, given the fact that Bay to Breakers is in 3 weeks and I’ve only run over 3 miles 3 times in my life. I need some more quality time with my Brooks and the pavement for sure.

I didn’t have any interest in running my panhandle loop or heading to the Embarcadero, so I decided to do the beach run again. You remember last time, right? Positive experience for sure, so I decided to replicate it.

First I had to walk from my house up to Kezar/the beginning of Lincoln Way.

Despite the gray skies, it was still pretty out. I actually like the winter, but spring is always a welcomed season. Everything feels fresh and new.

And pink. I like pink.

I started running at the corner where Lincoln begins and I ran towards the beach. I was much less satisfied with my run to the beach this time. I felt like I was mentally struggling with it a little bit. As soon as I hit the “30s” avenues, however, it picked up. For some reason, seeing the ocean just makes me so excited that I forget all about how much my legs hurt and I just keep going.

The downward slope at that part of the route doesn’t hurt either.

Once I got to the beach, I paused RunKeeper and took a seat. I can’t ever turn down an opportunity to look at the ocean.

That drop from my feet to sand is a lot longer than you would think. Maybe 7 feet or more. Probably not that big of a deal to jump down into sand, but I am kinda wimpy when it comes to heights…..I climbed down from the other side onto the pavement instead.

There were lots of crazy people out at the beach yesterday, which I found weird given how dreary that day was.

No, no, no. Not me. I’m not that crazy. I’m talking about them….

Um. Guys? It’s like, cold outside. Why on God’s green earth would you want to go out into the ocean?

You couldn’t have paid me to get into that water.

Of course, aside from dipping my feet in, you couldn’t pay me to go out into that water during a heat wave.

***

I postponed heading back home for two reasons:

1) I really like looking at the ocean.

2) Home is slightly uphill. Me no likee. Maybe I should take the N-Judah home instead….

Of course, I didn’t end up taking the bus home. After about 15 minutes of people watching, I started to consider leaving. I went over to the 76 Station to buy a new bottle of water. The guy in there is always really…stern. I took my headphones off when I got to the counter and embarrassingly enough, the silence between me and the mini mart proprietor was being broken by the Jackson 5 singing “ABC”. Awkward. I apologized and said, “Sorry…I can tell you don’t want to be forced into listening to the Jacksons…hahaha..” and paused iTunes. The guy never said anything. Or smiled.

Okay. Whatever. Thanks for the water, guy…

Once I got outside, I dug into my spibelt and realized that I was an idiot. I hadn’t wanted to bring the entire tube of Nuun. I also hadn’t wanted to waste plastic wrap or a baggie on one electrolyte tablet.

Fail.

My speibelt is not waterproof, and apparently, that is a problem.

And yes. I used the sweaty tab anyway. Gross, yet refreshing.

The run home was so much easier than it was the first time I did this route. This really surprised me, given how I struggled during what should’ve been the easy leg of the run. Although I was going uphill, and my legs were on fire (I did a strength training workout on Monday), my mind was clear. I felt reasonably cheerful, glad I had forced myself to get out of my apartment and happy that I had missed stomping on this little lady:

I moved the snail over to the side of the road so she wouldn’t be in the danger zone for any other runners/walkers passing by.

I essentially saved her 3 hours of commute time.

(If you’re wondering about the Russian, it’s an inside joke from high school. I’d like to get into it, including teaching all of you how to properly ask the question, “Do you like snails in your toilet?” по-русский, but really, we’re getting off track…)

I ran back to Haight and Stanyan, slowly but surely, feeling strong and in a good mood. I stopped off at Whole Foods for more chocolate peanut butter, which I think may be the best thing ever invented. Unfortunately, as is Whole Foods’ way, I left with a bag of stuff. I attempted to run home carrying the bag, but after a block or two, I gave up. Running with a bag of groceries isn’t very comfortable.

All in all, an excellent run.

Oh! I forgot to show you something.

I saw these signs at the beach today. I have no recollection of ever having seen them before, but obviously, given the rust, they’ve probably been there for some time.


They’re incredibly helpful. After all, I’d never be smart enough to run AWAY from the ocean when I’ve been alerted to an incoming tsunami. Nope. Without this sign, I’d be a goner….

When you start a workout, is your mental strength to push through best at the start? Or does it improve after you find your groove?

My morning started off pretty well, with me finishing off Rachel Cosgrove’s “The Female Body Breakthrough“. If you recall, Maya sent it to me as a surprise gift last month. I had been reading something else at the time, but this past week I was finally able to get to it. I really enjoyed parts of the book, including Cosgrove’s discussions of the female hormones (and how to use your cycle to your workout benefit) and overcoming unhealthy relationships with food.

While I probably won’t adhere to everything just as written (running may be an advanced exercise that I haven’t “earned the right” to do at this point, but I’m signed up for a 12K next month, so I’m going to run!), I was completely excited about the idea of starting the strength program. While I used to strength train when I first joined the Y in 2007/2008, I didn’t keep up with it. Plus, I only used weight machines. I was always envious of those on the weight floor, working with free weights and just body weight, but the trainer who prescribed my weight circuit plans told me he wanted me to build up a little before he introduced me to free weights. I sorta never built up and made another appointment. My bad.

After finishing up my reading I did something that I think makes me either totally badass, or perhaps slightly out of my mind: I registered for the lottery entry for the 2011 Nike Women’s Half Marathon. I’m not sure why I’ve recently become inspired to try a half marathon, especially given my difficulties with running just a 5K sometimes. Nevertheless, I just decided that I wanted to try.

(Source)

Plus, I’m a sucker for bling that comes in a blue box.

One of the questions in the registration for the lotto was the following: I RUN TO BE ______.

Your job was to fill in the blank with one word. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I know most people would just say the first thing that popped into their head, but not me. I stopped to really think about why I run. After a lot of time and consideration, I declared:

I RUN TO BE FEARLESS.

I know. A weird thing to say.

I guess that because of my past and various things that have gone on in my life, I am always afraid. Of failure. I could never run as a kid, so I think part of me just associates the act of becoming a runner (or at least completing a substantial race distance, such as a half marathon) with reinforcing the idea in my brain that I can do anything I want to. I just need to commit and do it. All of the doubts, worries and silliness is all in my head. I want to conquer this running thing so that in the future, when I think I can’t, I can remind myself of what I have achieved and that if I can haul my butt 13.1 miles, I can do anything.

With thoughts of my new mantra ringing in my brain, I closed my laptop, changed into my workout clothes and headed towards the Y. I figured I’d drop off my clothes in a locker and do the AT&T loop. I needed to get in a run as my wisdom teeth extractions had put me behind in my Bay to Breakers preparations. Just as I was about to hit Market and Van Ness, I approached a large (maybe 10 or so) group of homeless/street people sitting on the sidewalk. As I started to walk past them, one of them yelled out something at me.

I don’t want to get into what he said specifically. Essentially, he made a comment about how a part of my body looked in my workout clothes. A nasty, rude, offensive and frankly, mean comment.

I flipped him off and kept walking.

But the damage was done. I hadn’t even looked back to see which guy said it or who was laughing. I was looking at the ground, feeling my face turn bright red and tears welling up in my eyes. I kept walking. I used to have strangers publicly humiliate me due to my size on a daily basis, but it has probably been a couple of years since it has happened and frankly, it hurt a lot more than I remembered it hurting.

I briefly toyed with the idea of skipping my run. I felt fairly demoralized, all of the joy from the morning’s fitness related activities drained from me. I thought about just going to the Y, showering, changing into my street clothes and then going to work early. However, when I got to the locker room, I just shoved my backpack in a locker, grabbed a runner’s stamp from the front desk and went out to the Embarcadero.

The first mile hurt. I ran against the wind as fast as I could and I made myself promise that I wouldn’t stop until I reached the turn around point near AT&T Park’s Giants retail store. I was pushing myself so hard I couldn’t even think about anything. I just ran. When I hit the turn around I felt spent. It may’ve only been 1.25 miles, but I was huffing and puffing as if I had just ran a marathon. I walked for the rest of the distance around the park, catching my breath and drinking my Nuun. I thought about what had happened and how I felt.

Crappy.

But I realized it wasn’t because of how I looked in my work out clothes. I had already noticed the way my body looked in this outfit. I hadn’t been too bothered by it. I mean, if I am in my work out clothes, that means I’m working out! No shame there. I realized that it just hurt because I was ashamed of the fact that I haven’t been giving things my all in life. Even my recent plans. Though I’ve been doing so much better, I’m still not doing my best. That is the only thing in the world that a person should ever be ashamed of.

If you are doing your best, what more can you do?

So what I put to myself was the following question: Every time someone teases you or gives you a hard time, are you going to cry? Or are you going to be fearless because you’ve done your best?

There is only one choice worth making.

Once I hit the Embarcadero I took a leisurely pace back to the Y and finished up my 2.5 mile loop.

While I felt much better after my run, I’ve still felt pretty low today. I am making consistent efforts to not “be the fat girl” anymore, but sometimes it is just hard to be convinced when others have the nerve to tell you to your face, whether it is true or not, that you still are.

Keeping up with my workout schedule has been a little difficult now that I’m back to my regular hours at work. Still, I’ve been able to manage to go to Cardio Kick class at the YMCA as planned for the past three weeks. It’s the longest streak of consistent gym exercise I’ve had in months. Usually I just hit up a class or do a workout there once in a while. This week I got up and thought briefly about skipping, but since I had already gone to class for 2 weeks, I decided I better get up and go. I guess a point made in The Spark is true: Streaks make you want to keep going and help you succeed.

The class left me fairly sore, so I Tiger Tailed it before bed. I still felt somewhat sore on Wednesday, so instead of jumping up right away and heading out for the run I had planned to do on the Embarcadero, I hung around on the futon for a few hours, drinking coffee and netflixing “My So-Called Life”. I so miss 1994. I wish I still had my favorite plaid shirt…

At around 1:30pm, I realized that I wouldn’t be running at all unless I got up and went out soon, so I suited up and instead of heading towards the Embarcadero, I walked up to Kezar. This was a totally spontaneous decision, but something in me decided that instead of running from Pier 39 to AT&T Park or something like that, I wanted to run the length of Golden Gate Park. I had never done it before, and for some reason, running all of the way out to the beach sounded really appealing. I hadn’t been sure of the length of the park, but a quick Google search said 3 miles. I figured I’d run out to the beach and then maybe run part of the way back.

I decided to run on Lincoln, instead of inside the park due to my allergies and tendencies to get completely and totally lost when inside. This also meant I would get to stop at crosswalks, which to some people would be a negative thing. Not to me though…built in rest stops, guilt free! Before I left the house I had stuffed a pack of gummy gels in my pocket that I got as a freebie after the Run Wild for a Child 5K in November. Since I typically never run more than 3 miles, I’ve never needed them, but I thought I’d take them along just in case. I ended up popping one gummy before I set out on the run, as breakfast had been a few hours prior and a tiny pang of hunger was just coming up on my radar.

Sorry. Bad picture. FYI, the gels tasted okay.

After my gummy, I was off. I had anticipated doing a lot of run/walking on the way out. I pretty much do that during every run. This run, however, was different. Though I may’ve stopped at crosswalks, I didn’t need to stop. I felt unusually strong and capable. I never whined to myself about wanting to stop. I wasn’t concentrating on how much everything hurt. It was really the strongest run I’ve ever had, mentally speaking. I was in the zone. As I began to see the ocean peeking up over the horizon, I started to feel exhilarated and even more excited to push myself to pick up the pace.

When I got out to the beach, I just felt…great. Like I was a total badass for running out there. I don’t know why it felt so epic to me, as I run 3 mile distances all of the time. It just felt different to me. More powerful.

I really didn’t want to leave the beach. I always forget how much I love it out near the water. Truth is, despite living right here on the pacific ocean for my entire life, up until recently, I had only gone out there a handful of times. My family isn’t really into hanging out at the beach, so I guess I just never got in the habit. In the last couple of years a friend of mine has been taking me to beaches and on hiking trips and I’ve found that I really love watching the water. It’s just so peaceful and good.

After standing around for several minutes, I realized that I was going to have to go. It was getting late, I was 5 miles away from home and I was getting concerned that I was going to get stormed on at any moment….

It was clear out over the ocean, but back where I was heading? Not so much…

I ate another gel gummy, stopped off at the above pictured 76 Station for a new bottle of water (and a lotto ticket! I was feeling lucky!) and headed back the way I had come. I had packed my Clipper Card in my spibelt so that I could take the bus back home if I was tired. You see, the farthest I had ever run prior to this day was 4.18 miles. It was going to be a round trip total of 6.25 miles (or a 10K) if I ran back to Kezar. I really wasn’t sure if that was more than I could do.

But as I started back home, despite the soreness and stiffness in my legs, one thought crossed my mind when I considered the bus: “Nah. I got this.”

The run back was harder. There’s an ever so slight incline for half of the distance that is almost undetectable when walking, but noticeable when tired and running. Also I was starting to feel the impact of this run coupled with the previous day’s Cardio  Kick class throughout my body and it wasn’t easy to ignore. Nevertheless, I never once thought I was going to give up on the way back. I allowed myself some walking/stretch breaks, but I kept going and I finished strong.

My pace wasn’t bad either. Between 12-13 minutes average pace. My goal pace for Bay to Breakers is 12m/mile. Awesomeness.

When I got back to Kezar, I stopped off to use the restroom. They were having a track meet. I couldn’t see all of the teams there, but I noticed Galileo High, Burton High and Lowell in attendance. It sort of made me feel sad I had never done sports in school. I think if I had been in better shape, I would’ve liked it.

After my stop off, I went to Whole Foods for nourishment and then walked the rest of the way home. I took a shower and I felt damn accomplished. For a reward, I settled down to more “My So Called Life” and enjoyed two of my favorite things.



Wednesday, was a good day.

I know I have introduced you all before, but I have an pick up affair going on with the #11 bagel from The Grind Cafe.

I may go days or weeks without visiting with my boy, but he is always there for me when I come back. He doesn’t care if I’m acting like a jerk or if I’m feeling over emotional. He’s ideal. I mean, he doesn’t even get mad if I cheat on him with oatmeal or pancakes.

He’s not the jealous type.

I mean, look, sometimes he even brings friends to our clandestine meetings.

I don’t think anything will ever come between us.

Our love is forever. ❤

***

In other news, I can’t believe that I didn’t notice there was a hunk of something or the other on my floor and in my breakfast shot. Just looking at it is driving me bonkers.

Where the heck is my swifter….

***

Still working on figuring out all of my plans, but I did one good thing yesterday. I really, really, really didn’t want to go to the gym. Or walk to work. Or get out of bed. But I did get out of bed and I pulled on my gym clothes and headed to the YMCA. I did a tradmill workout. There was no real method…I just made it up as I went along.

It went something like:

400 meters – Warm-up walk. I started off slow at 2.5 mph, and every so often I bumped it up until it was up to 4.0 by the end of the “lap”…I say lap, as my favorite treadmill at the gym has an option to view a little track on the screen, so you can pretend you are doing a track workout.

400 meters – 4.6 mph jog

400 meters – 5.2 mph

400 meters – 6 mph

400 meters – 6.5 mph

400 meters – 7 mph

400 meters – 3.0 walk

Around this time I started to feel really super miserable. I was tired. I didn’t want to be on the treadmill. I wanted to go home. My plan had been to do the same build up one more time, but I was having trouble convincing myself. I ended up doing the following:

200 meters – 4.6 mph jog

200 meters – 3.0 walk

200 meters – 5.2 mph

200 meters – 3.0 walk

200 meters – 6 mph

200 meters – 3.0 walk

200 meters – 6.6 mph

200 meters – 3.0 walk

200 meters – 7 mph

200 meters – 3.0 walk

200 meters – 7.5 mph

200 meters – 3.0 walk

200 meters – 8 mph!

100 meters – 7 mph

100 meters – 6 mph

100 meters – 5.2 mph

300 meters – 4.6 mph jog

400 meters – Cool Down.

I know 8.0 (7:30/mi pace) isn’t that fast, sprinting wise, for some of you, but seeing as I normally run an 11:30-12min pace, it’s darn speedy for me. Somewhere around the 200 8.0 meters, I started to feel strong. Don’t misunderstand me. I still didn’t want to be there and mentally I still felt like crap on toast….but physically, I was feeling good.

Part of what I need to work on is pushing through even when my head is NOT in the game. Although I didn’t feel too excited about the workout, even when I was through, I got it done.

A step in the right direction!

If you are a treadmill runner, what kind of workouts do you do to keep it interesting?

One of the many reasons that San Francisco is completely awesome is that if you are a runner, there is always a race to sign up for.

There are many high-profile races to sign up for throughout the year, but even when there isn’t a huge event going on, you can always count on Dolphin South End Runners for a good race. They are a local running club that puts on a race just about every weekend. The races vary in lengths, the cost is super cheap ($5 for non-member, $3 for member) and they encourage people of all abilities to come out.

(When I say all ability, I mean it….they allow self-timers and once a month they even have a kids race…so cute!)

If you all recall, my very first race back in September was a DSE run and after having such a positive experience, I decided that I would try and do as many of their runs as I could in 2011. Unfortunately, I had already failed at this goal when I skipped out on the Arts & Sciences 5K in January. I could’ve gone, but having just battled two back to back head colds, I wasn’t really interested in running a race in the rain.

So I slept instead. It was awesome.

Yesterday, however, I was much more dedicated to my original plan.

I had been tossing back and forth the idea of doing the Strawberry Hill 5K, but given the fact that the course is essentially running up a big scary hill in Golden Gate Park, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit. What convinced me was the fact that I had been tweeting with Average A (from Diary of an Average Runner) for quite some time about potentially meeting up at Strawberry Hill. I didn’t want to be super lame and not show up (again….we were supposed to meet at Arts & Sciences…my bad…), so on Saturday night I set my alarm.

Come Sunday, I still wasn’t all that jazzed at the idea of running up a hill, but I had some coffee, peanut butter banana toast and laced up my sneakers just the same.

At about 7:45am I headed over to the bus stop, tweeted with Average A, confirming that she was also going and giving her a run down of my wardrobe so spotting each other would be easier. I got to the park way too early…at maybe 8:20am or so? I leave really early just in case I run into any transit issues and normally, this would be fine. On Sunday, however, it was only 39 degrees when I left my house! I paid for my race entry and then stood around FREEZING to death. I decided to head to the bathroom to give myself something to do. I got back and still had 15 minutes to kill. I stretched. I hopped up and down. I blew into my hands, cursing the fact that I am a native San Franciscan, thus a person who doesn’t own a pair of gloves.

When there were just a few minutes to go, I walked over to the start line. I headed dutifully to the back of the pack. Although the club encourages all levels of runners, a lot of people who run these races are super fast, so I didn’t want to be in their way. The announcer made a few remarks….including a “no headphone” rule. Now others were still plugged in, but I felt awkward, so I put my headphones in my pocket. Just a minute or so before the air horn sounded someone came over to me and asked if I was Alexa. That’s right, Average A found me! We shook hands and she wished me luck just as the race began. In two seconds flat I lost sight of her in the crowd. That girl is fast!

The race itself was hard.

Going into the race, I had no idea what the course was like. I looked at the course map and description (you can click on the race link earlier in the post), and still had no idea what to expect. Here is what the race looked like on RunKeeper:

I know, right?

(also, ignore that there is no mile 3. Not entirely sure why RunKeeper thinks this run was only 2.6 miles….Maya’s theory has to do with inclines, and I am…inclined…to agree. Cough.)

Pretty much, we ran up Kennedy Drive and then started a loop around Stow Lake. Then, we ran a loop around Strawberry Hill (that green area in the middle of the lake), then we ran this death incline up to the top of the hill, then we retraced our steps back down and around the hill and finished the loop around Stow Lake and back to the Start/Finish line.

Oh em gee. Hills.

I have only recently started incorporating incline running into my routines and they kill me. I was forced to take several walking breaks, but I followed my “always keep someone ahead of you in your sights” rule. This is for two reasons: 1) It motivates me to not completely wuss out and 2) It’s for my own safety…I have no sense of direction and get lost every single time I go running in Golden Gate Park.

(Unfortunately, the people behind me weren’t following the same rule….as I ran down Strawberry Hill, we saw others still coming up……taking the wrong turn and not running to the top of the hill. Those around me were yelling “LEFT!” at them and I was pointing up the mountain, but a bunch of people went the wrong way….)

In addition to all of the killer inclines, very little of the course was paved. That would be fine, except for the fact that it rained for most of last week…..that’s right, we were running in mud. My poor Brooks were filthy after finishing. It also made making up time on the downhills hard because I was afraid I was going to fall to my doom.

Despite the difficulty of this course, I finished.

Did you really think I wouldn’t?!

As I saw the finish line in front of me, I noticed the clock was heading towards 35 minutes.

My reaction: “Oh hells NO!”

I booked the last little bit of the race and Average A was nice enough to snap my picture as I crossed the finish line with an official time of 34:53. I felt pretty good about that given the amount of walking I did and how difficult a course it was. I felt even better after the following announcement was made:

Announcer: In true DSE fashion, this course distance wasn’t calculated correctly….it isn’t a 5K.

*everyone groans*

Announcer: It was 3.3 miles! So if you were thinking your times were a little high, that’s why!

*everyone cheers*

As per usual, everyone receives a finishing ribbon, so Average A asked someone nearby to snap a couple of pictures of us together, showing off our bling.

We hung out and chatted for a bit and A introduced me to one of her other DSE buddies. We talked about maybe meeting up again at the St. Patrick’s Day 5K….it’s all flat, baby, all flat! I can’t wait!